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Five labourers trapped in Meghalaya coal mine after dynamite blast

Miners at a rat-hole coal mine in East Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. This photo from 2020 was submitted by activists to the government as evidence of rampant illegal mining despite a ban by National Green Tribunal in April 2014. Special Arrangement.  

A dynamite blast led to the flooding of a coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district, trapping five labourers, officials said on Monday.


The district police and specialists launched a search and rescue operation after receiving information from the police in southern Assam’s Cachar district about the possible death of five-seven miners in a mine accident on the night of May 30.


One Karimul Bari of Cachar district had tipped off the local police, saying one of his neighbours was among the dead lying buried 500 ft under the surface.


East Jaintia Hills district SP Jagpal Singh Dhanoa said the police identified the probable site of the incident in the Sutnga area on Monday morning. The spot is about 1 km from the Umpleng market.


“According to eyewitnesses, five persons got trapped when water rushed into the mine after a sudden explosion of dynamite. The mine was flooded in no time,” he said.


People near the site, possibly miners, helped the police identify three of the trapped labourers as Abdul Karim and Abdul Kalam from Assam and Shyamcharan Debbarma from Tripura. The two unidentified miners are from Assam.


Mr. Dhanoa said the search and rescue operation was being led by the State Disaster Response Force under the supervision of the DGP (Law and Order). But the operation has been delayed due to heavy rainfall.


Preliminary investigations revealed the main culprit was the mine’s ‘sordar’ (manager) named Nizam Ali who did not take any initiative to rescue the trapped labourers and chased the survivors away, forbidding them from talking about the incident.


“Based on the account of the survivors, an FIR was registered at the Khliehriat [district headquarters]) police station under relevant sections of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act and the Disaster Management Act. The survivors are being looked after by the police to ensure their security,” Mr. Dhanoa said, adding that a person detained for questioning tested positive for COVID-19 and was being kept at an isolation centre under guard.


The National Green Tribunal had in April 2014 banned the hazardous rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya. But activists say coal mining continues to be rampant as most of these are owned by politicians and officials.


This is the third major coal mine mishap in East Jaintia Hills district. At least 17 miners, mostly from Assam, were killed in December 2018 when the mine they were working in at Ksan got submerged. In January this year, six labourers died after a crane collapsed into the pit of a coal mine in the Sorkari forest.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 9:49:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/6-miners-feared-dead-in-meghalaya-coal-mine/article34688617.ece

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